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PAVE forum: Ten vie for Shawnee City Commission seats

Vicky O. Misa
Candidates for Shawnee Mayor respond to questions during a PAVE forum Thursday.

On Thursday evening PAVE (Pottawatomie Advocates for Voter Education) hosted a candidate forum for 10 hopefuls running for offices relating to the Shawnee City Commission.

Four candidates are running for mayor.

Ward 2, 3 and 4 terms are up, and two candidates each are facing off to fill those seats.

Mayor

• Current Ward 1 City Commissioner Ed Bolt has been Ward 1 City Commissioner for the past two years.

“The reason I do this, is I absolutely love the city of Shawnee,” he said. “I love living here, I love what we have been doing as a city; we are growing; we are getting better every day.”

He said wants this to be the very best community that anybody can live in.

“I think that's what we all ought to be working toward,” he said.

Bolt worked almost 30 years for Southwestern Bell/AT&T, doing lots of different things for them. At the end, he said he was regional sales manager for them at statewide responsibility.

“I was responsible for a lot more business than the city of Shawnee has budget,” he said. “I worked with their largest customers.”

After retirement he opened a business in Shawnee that grew bigger than he intended, he said.

“I had fun with that,” he said. “It gave me an opportunity to meet lots and lots of good people around Shawnee.”

Bolt said he and his wife have worked in many volunteer organizations.

“It takes up a lot of my time but it's because it's what I enjoy doing,” he said. “I think we've done lots of good things here.”

He said Shawnee is poised for growth, as is evident by ODOT spending so much money on projects like Interstate 40 and Hwy 9 (toward Shawnee).

Bolt said he's always been in the relationship business.

“I'm very good at that and I want to use that ability here in Shawnee,” he said.

If elected, he said his top goals are making sure the city get its money straight (due to COVID-19); infrastructure and core services; and committed projects.

• Theresa Cody said she grew up east of Shawnee and spent most of her time in the Shawnee area. Her grandparents and great-grandparents are here in Pottawatomie County.

“I do have a long history here and I care about the history of this town,” she said.

She said she moved away for a number of years, but made a decision to move back and start a business here.

“I did that 28 and a half years ago and we have a strong, growing, thriving business — not that we haven't had our ups and downs — but we have built our business strong,” she said. “I'm feeling really good about where I'm going from here.”

She said she wants to be able to bring the community together in a different way than she's ever seen it before.

“I'm really excited about being given the opportunity to run for mayor of the city,” she said.

If elected, she said her top goals are to go over the budget/finances; infrastructure; and to set up a citizens advisory committee.

• Current Ward 3 City Commissioner Ron Gillham Sr. said he moved from Oklahoma to California at 2 years old.

“We (he and his wife) moved back about 42 years ago,” he said. “We opened Rave Sound; my sons wanted us to do a business and then left me with it when they got through with it — we were there 27 years.”

He said he joined the commission when he saw some problems — and arguing; he thought he could calm it down, which he said he thinks he accomplished some of that.

“I did such things; I saw a white field, open to be done,” he said. “We didn't have public television, we didn't have lake recreation. At that time Gateway has not been created yet.”

He said there were so many things he was a part of during that time that has now come to fruition.

“I look at that and so much of the opportunity that was there at the time, public television in particular, was quite a task in getting it done because none of the commissioners wanted it, I had six commissioners against me,” he said. “We got an initial petition passed and resistance came back from, actually the newspapers, and I didn't get the vote through.”

He said he, Dr. (Roger) Hadley and Daniel Shaughnessy worked to get ShawneeCTV started.

“I've been involved in so much; it's been much quieter now because of not having the situation with the almost rogue police department we had going in 1992-2000 — that was the first eight years (in office) and then I came back when we had this sudden situation with a lot of money flying around to control the commission and I decided I would offer myself to try to help that out,” he said.

If elected, he said his top goals are the 45th Street Project; seeing the commission run more comfortably and less formally.

• Dean Hudlow said he came to Shawnee in 1952 from military service; his family had moved here in 1948.

“I worked at the Post Office for one year; I worked for the Oldsmobile agency for a few years and then went into the insurance business for 45 years,” he said. Hudlow said he was advised and helped along by other people when deciding to run for office.

“I was married more than 55 years before my wife dies, so I've listened to instructions a great deal,” he said. “I think with the experience I had in operating my own business, things you have to come across and accomplish in that is a bit of a problem sometimes.”

If elected, he said his top goals are city finances and learning to live on less (due to COVID-19); he said he is not in favor of raising taxes.

Commissioner

Ward 2:

• Elliot Shuler said over the past 28 years, while living in Shawnee, he has served the community in manufacturing, education and as a small business owner.

He said he and his wife own three businesses and are renovating a site on Main Street.

“We are committed to the community and to Shawnee,” he said. “I currently teach at Gordon Cooper Technology Center; I am the advanced manufacturing and machine instructor there.”

He said he mentors young students to enter the workforce into high-paying jobs, so they can better their lives, be better citizens and have a future.

“I hope to be a voice for all citizens in Shawnee, not just the voice of citizens in Ward 2,” he said. “I feel that positive leadership is needed, and with positive leadership in Shawnee, we can continue making Shawnee a great place to live for everyone.”

He said he hopes to continue the growth in Shawnee over the past 10 years and keep things moving forward.

If elected, he said his top goals are safety and security; that finances and money are right; and continuing development and investing in quality-of-life situations.

• Bob Weaver said he made the decision to run because he has the experience and passion to make a difference.

“I'm retired from Canadian Valley Electric Cooperative and committed to spending my time to be an active and well-informed commissioner,” he said. “I believe that listening to the concerns and acting on those is a critical part of the responsibility of a commissioner.”

He is a Shawnee native and said he has spent that lifetime wokring to make Shawnee a better place.

“I previously served as a member of the Shawnee City Commission and served in the Oklahoma Legislature for 12 years as Shawnee's state representative,” he said. “My public service in the community is evidence of that commitment that I made to serve the people of Shawnee.”

Leadership matters, he said; he's been honored to lead many organizations in town.

“I've served as president of the Shawnee Chamber of Commerce, YMCA, Red Cross, Shawnee Homebuilders, Salvation Army, just to name a few,” he said. “Shawnee will be facing many challenges in the future and many tough decisions will have to be made; those decisions need to be made with a strong understanding of the consequences.”

He said he will advocate for transparency with city finances and focus on enforcement of existing codes and ordinances to enhance the attractiveness of the city.

He said he also will support completion of the long-planned and financed Kickapoo Street Project, the 45th Street Project — as voted on by the people, maintenance and improvements of roads, and maintenance of existing parks and recreation areas, including Shawnee Twin Lakes.

“There are so many more things that need to be addressed by commissioners, and I solicit citizens to speak up and let us know,” he said. “I will work together with fellow commissioners and Shawnee citizens to make Shawnee a better and safer place to live.”

Also, if elected, he pledged to be accessible to all citizens.

If elected, he said his top goals are the budget and maintaining city finances; infrastructure; and protecting the community's water supply and developing and enhancing the twin lakes.

Ward 3:

• Incumbent James Harrod said he appreciates the city and citizens for allowing him to serve for four terms.

“I've served the city as vice-mayor for eight years; I've also served on the legislative committee and Mid-Size Coalition, contract review committee, in private businesses for 20 years, superintendent of schools for 30 years,” he said. “I have a lot of expertise in different areas.”

He said city leadership and staff are all young and he can grant some expertise and experience to help train these people and move the city forward.

“I'm very proud of everything we've done for the city and the progress we've made the last 20 years.”

He came to Shawnee in 1989; he said a lot of improvements have been made since then.

“I'm very happy to have been a part of that and am looking forward to serving for four more years and know that my experience will help the city and the commission,” he said.

If elected, he said his top goals are to continue spending tax dollars as intended; economic development; and transparency.

• Travis Flood said he moved to Shawnee the first time in 2005 to minister and raise raise his young family. He said he quickly fell in love with the city and its people.

“Because I was a minister, sometimes my job would take me away from this part of the world, but any time I was in between jobs or churches, I always found myself back in Shawnee because it is an amazing and caring place to live and be loved on, and raise a family.”

He said he looks forward to continuing to help the city be that for all families.

“When we think about the things that are going on in the world right now, we really need to focus on unity and love, respecting and hearing each other,” he said. “Sometimes we get caught up in al of the excitement that's going on and forget that we're dealing with people; people have special needs and different things in their lives.”

Building a city that's focused on only one or two needs really does neglect a lot of people, he said.

“I hope that being on this commission, if I get a chance to serve, that I can be a voice for all the people, all demographics, all races, all socioeconomic parts of town.”

He said he will do his best to not just hear the loud voices, but the soft voices, too.

“If we're only focused on the few, there are so many things that get neglected,” he said. “We've got an awesome, amazing economic team that's doing so many amazing things; I think we should continue to support those, continue to look for areas where we can be better and be the best little city this side of Oklahoma City.”

So many surrounding cities have the opportunity to come and to be here and do things in Shawnee, he said.

“I absolutely love the fact that we get to be their big city that they go and be a part of,” he said.

If elected, he said his top goals are to continue economic growth; complete streets; and work with improvements downtown.

Ward 4:

• Incumbent Darren Rutherford said he was born and raised in Shawnee and works at the business his dad started 45 years ago, Fred's Tire and Battery.

His wife is a local insurance agent and is involved in the local kayak club.

“We have three children; we're members the Wallace Avenue Baptist Church,” he said. “I'm the past president of Kiwanis and have been there for almost 17 years, and also co-chair of Shawnee Little Olympics for a number of years.”

One of the things he has most recently been involved in and is most passionate about is being part of the Cops N Kids program.

“This is so important these days, so kids, and parents alike, can meet our local officers and have a chance to get to know them personally,” he said. “I'm very much pro-public safety.”

His grandfathers both served the community — one as Pottawatomie County Undersheriff for 20 years, and the other was was a Shawnee firefighter for 20 years.

“So public safety is very important to me and my family,” he said. “I'm passionate about that.”

He said his family ties to Shawnee are what prompted him to become a city commissioner.

“Now, (with) the knowledge and experience I've gained over the past four years, I want to continue to contribute to our community for the next four years,” he said. “We've made some great strides forward in the last four years and I want to be part of seeing this momentum continue.”

If elected, he said his top goals are the 45th Street Project; water and infrastructure; and getting codes updated and enforced.

• LaDonna Bryce said she is the owner/operator of a real estate office in Shawnee.

“I have loved Shawnee since I moved here a number of years ago,” she said. “I've lived in some different areas; I moved back home to take care of family, but the very moment I was able to move back to Shawnee, that's where I came.”

She said she has a heart and vision for Shawnee.

“I want to see Shawnee grow and be better for everyone, not just a select few,” she said. “I am passionate about increasing voter participation.”

If elected, she said her top goals are to continue to work on infrastructure; and (limit) crime and homelessness.

For more

Watch for more stories about questions and responses from candidates next week in The Shawnee News-Star. Some questions ask candidates their stances on finances, Blue Zones and roads.

Check it out

PAVE to host forum for county, state seats

PAVE is hosting another forum next week, at 7 p.m. June 18, at Shawnee City Hall. Due to COVID-19 precautions, residents cannot attend the meeting; they must view the forum live on the city website at shawneeok.org; or on Vyve cable channel 3.

This forum will feature State Senate Dist. 17 candidates Brandon Baumgarten, Shane Jett and Ron Sharp; Senate Dist. 28 candidates Christian Ford, Mike Haines and Zack Taylor; Dist. 2 County Commissioner candidates Jason Evans and Randy Thomas; and sheriff candidates Mike Booth, Jeff Griffith and Ben Henderson.

Since a live audience has been cancelled due to COVID-19 precautions, residents can email questions through 5 p.m. Tuesday at paveshawnee@gmail.com to allow time for screening.